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War relic in the HBFV Museum, Belgium

Jo Peeters, who runs the HBFV Musuem in Belgium, dedicated to the Belgian and French Resistance during World War II, tells us of a relic in their collection relating to carrier pigeon NURP 39 TTTI that delivered Message 37 to MI4 and the RAF on 12 July 1941.

The basket containing the pigeon was dropped over Lichtervelde in Belgium by the RAF and ‘Nr 1’ was found by a farmer who took the bird to the Debaillie family. The brothers Debaillie were Resistance members, and together with a friend of the family Joseph Raskin they founded ‘Leopold Vindictive 200’. In the small container, Joseph could offer information on the coastal zones in more than 5000 written words.

The museum’s collection contains the very camouflaged pigeon basket that the pigeon was held in for several days. Arseen Debaillie even took it several times to the dropzone, waiting for the next drop. A risky thing – the Germans made the use of pigeons prohibited by law in 1941.

Joseph Raskin took the photograph below on 12 July 1941, minutes before Arseen had let the pigeon go on the roof for its flight towards Ipswich. The two sisters are seen on the outside, one holding the parachute; Michel is holding the pigeon, and right of him is Arseen. Next right stands Gabriel holding the British instructions.

This story is about just one of the 16800 racing pigeons that were dropped over Europe during World War II, resulting in 950 messages that made it back to the British and Allied forces.

Our thanks to Jo Peeters for the article.

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